By Scott Lundstrom
Dec 2005 / Jan 2006 | It’s no secret that Web services are the hottest thing going in enterprise architecture. Every major vendor now has a services-oriented spin on its product, and every customer has a Web services requirement section in his or her RFPs. Rivaling the hype that surrounded the emergence of client/server architectures, and then the ensuing object wars between COM and CORBA, jaded customers are now being inundated with Web services offerings from their suppliers. Many customers have been skeptical based on the poor returns they have seen by blindly following a single vendor’s dogmatic approach to architecture. While this skepticism is understandable, it looks as if 2006 will be the year that service-based architectures break out of the hype cycle and move from pilots to production.
While many of us have been talking about Web services for five years now, most companies have spent the last two years in the pilot phase. Many companies were in the process of creating a business case for a focused rollout of the technology. Recent data from the Life Science Insights Leading Indicators Panel suggests that in the next 12 months we will see widespread adoption of service-oriented architectures in the life science industry.
Like previous generations of application architecture, Web services represent a fundamental shift in how computing resources are deployed and integrated. Service-oriented architectures differ from previous approaches by avoiding vendor lock in, while fostering open data standards. Open standards surrounding the collection and exchange of data are essential to any broad-based deployment of Web services. This is especially true in areas of the business where outsourcing is prevalent, such as clinical development. Standards such as those developed by CDISC are already transforming how lab data are collected and managed. This in turn will make outsourcing more attractive while also fostering competition in the market. Data standards allow a more flexible and modular approach to solutions assembly and allow life science companies to be more opportunistic and agile in the operation of their businesses.
A standards-based approach creates a more cost-effective solution for customers than previous approaches. Service-oriented architectures offer real benefits to the organizations deploying them, and this is especially true for life science organizations. These architectures can create significant opportunities by reducing the cost and complexity of business operations in the following ways:
• Application Integration — Web services simplify the integration of software applications. Most vendors have begun to package and deliver Web services for many common business data requirements.
• Process Analytics — Enhanced data integration coupled with dynamic information assembly in a portal environment supports improved decision-making. Portals and advanced analytics work better together.
• Platform Virtualization — Service-oriented architectures are inherently Internet friendly, supporting the centralization and virtualization of IT resources. Such architecture supports the consolidation of application instances and the associated IT infrastructure.
• Compliance — Compliance investments will remain a top priority for life science companies. Substantial ongoing investments will be required to meet a long list of new requirements. Web services offer a better approach for companies trying to “future proof” their infrastructure to meet the needs of emerging compliance requirements.
• Business Process Change — Web services make it easier and less costly to implement business process change. Outsourcing, compliance, acquisitions, and process improvement all drive change into the IT environment, and Web services make all of these changes easier.
When considered in aggregate, it seems the biggest potential advantage to come from Web services is increased innovation. By reducing the cost and complexity of change, Web services increase the ability to improve operations through innovation. By increasing the rate of change, we improve the odds of finding a better or optimal process or solution. Delivering improved rates of innovation and change to the organization may be the largest value a company gets from Web services.
Scott Lundstrom is VP Research, Health Industry Insights. E-mail: email@example.com.